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Primary production a world leader

A new report into the potential of integrated farm management systems highlights the leadership within our primary production sector, Trade Negotiations and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The report, commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, says New Zealand is poised to establish itself as a world leader in food chain safety. It identifies opportunities for Integrated Farm Management Systems within New Zealand and on international markets.

In many markets for New Zealand’s farm products, purchasing decisions are increasingly being made on the basis of concerns over animal welfare, disease resistance and food chain safety. Regulators in these markets are also imposing food chain tracking requirements on food producers.

Mr Sutton said the seamless integration of electronics-based farm technologies would allow New Zealand farms to ensure their products were safe, met international standards and were fully traceable through the food chain from production, processing to marketing.

“New Zealand is already well down the track in developing technologies to integrate its farm management systems and if we act quickly, and work together, New Zealand could establish world leadership in this field of food traceability.

“There’s little reward for our farms growing the world’s best, most environmentally friendly and safest products, when we can’t prove it.

“We now have the technology to trade product back from retail to individual animals, in many cases.”

Mr Sutton said IFMS also have the ability to drive significant productivity improvement on farms and provide new export markets based on sales of IFMS technologies.

“This is the sort of thing the Government’s Growth and Innovation Framework is aiming at – using horizontal enablers such as computer technology to improve the efficiency of traditionally strong industries such as agriculture.”

The report says IFMS could more than double the annual output growth of farms.

IFMS incorporate information and communications technology, computer hardware and software, IT farm management systems, biotechnology and sensor equipment alongside more traditional agricultural technology such as animal health, fencing, dairy equipment, genetics, water supply, machinery weighing systems, seeds and fertilisers.

The system pulls together, in a farmer’s own information system, data for on-farm management and regulatory and food traceability requirements.

The Government is to convene a focus group to study the report and its recommendations. Its membership will be announced soon.

The report was commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and written by Leith Pemberton, principal of Hamilton-based agribusiness consultants Leith Pemberton and Associates.

Its recommendations include: · Setting up a meeting of relevant organisations to consider the IFMS concept and develop an implementation framework · Research organisations and manufacturers improve their collaboration · The establishment of a pilot farm to confirm the effectiveness of IFMS

The aim of the study was to investigate the feasibility of combining high-tech electronics-based agritech products and services to develop IFMS and to investigate the global and local opportunities IFMS may present for on-farm productivity and profitability and growing international requirements for food traceability.

The report says New Zealand companies were world-class in a number of areas crucial to the development of IFMS, including the integration of electronics into farm machinery and farm processing software.

“If New Zealand is to remain the world-leader in pasture-based production, farmers will need to ensure that they have access to quality information and analysis on their business on which to base their commercial decisions,” it says.

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